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How to find the best ute camping canopy

Ironman 4x4’s Alu-Cab rooftop Expedition tent. (image credit: Ironman 4x4)

A ute is a supremely useful and versatile vehicle but, if its tray space is not covered and lockable, it could benefit greatly from the installation of a canopy. And if you’re planning to use your ute as a bush-and-beach tourer then adding a camping-friendly canopy is your best bet.

A canopy transforms your ute’s load space into a secure and more versatile cargo area, protected from the elements and the wandering hands of grubby thieves. 

A durable material, such as canvas, UV-stable ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a thermoplastic polymer), fibreglass, aluminium or steel, is advised and there is camping-canopy style for everyone. 

Some canopies are better suited to storing tools and toolboxes, job-site machinery or sporting equipment, but some are purpose-built for camping, replete with cookers, slide-out drawers for cutlery, a drop-down fridge slide, fridge barriers, as well as spaces for clothes, a spare tyre or two, jerrycans, a shovel and more.

This is our go-to guide on ute camping canopies.

Read on.

Different types of ute camping canopies 

One of Norweld Australia’s highly regarded aluminium canopies being used as it should be – on an adventure. (image credit: Norweld) One of Norweld Australia’s highly regarded aluminium canopies being used as it should be – on an adventure. (image credit: Norweld)

Sit near any campfire long enough and you’ll soon find out that different people have wildly different ideas about what makes the best camping canopy or the ultimate setup for adventure travel.

Some want functionality, such as a drawer system, a fridge slide and more, while others are keen to fit out their canopy with an accomodation option, such as a rooftop tent*. (*Note: a rooftop tent will soak up at least 50kg of your ute’s payload, so that will affect how much other stuff you can pack for your trips.) Some people make full use of their camping canopy by installing their Redarc pure sine wave inverter or in-vehicle battery charger, ARB onboard air compressors and more in it.

A ute canopy can also be a great platform for a roof-top tent.

As well as the different types of materials used different canopies, such as canvas, ABS plastic, fibreglass, aluminium and steel and, there are model-specific canopies to suit single cab, super-cab (space cab), dual-cab, and tray or pick-up utes.

Ironman 4x4’s Alu-Cab rooftop Expedition tent packed away, ready for the next adventure. (image credit: Ironman 4x4) Ironman 4x4’s Alu-Cab rooftop Expedition tent packed away, ready for the next adventure. (image credit: Ironman 4x4)

Basic, budget-friendly examples are available, but, a top-quality canopy – such as one available from ARB, Ironman 4x4, Norweld, Carryboy, Flexiglass, Opposite Lock, TJM etc – will benefit from some crucial elements such as lockable side windows and rear-access window, canopy vent (to reduce dust ingress by positively pressurising the canopy’s interior), tinted safety glass (5mm tinted and tempered), central locking, push-button side opening windows, and more.

Whether it’s an aluminium camping canopy or not, other features – such as keyless entry, high-spec adhesive, LED interior lights, stylish interior and an anti-entrapment dial (so people can get out of the canopy if locked inside) – are all great bonus stuff and included in renowned Australian aftermarket supplier ARB’s Ascent canopy.

A sturdy easy-access ladder should also be part of a camp-friendly canopy set-up if you want to access the top of the canopy – whether it’s to go to bed in your rooftop tent or extract some gear from your roof rack.

If your dogs are an important part of the family like mine are, then you’ll have to seriously consider getting a canopy with a dog pod installed on your ute.

What are your ute camping canopy options?

This basic Toyota canopy is fine, but Aussie off-roaders like a lot more features. This basic Toyota canopy is fine, but Aussie off-roaders like a lot more features.

So, you’re looking to buy a dual cab camper canopy? Well, the range of options available is massive – from DIY jobs, off-the-shelf specials, to canopies which are packed with features and custom jobs. Be aware that if a canopy is dirt-cheap and seems too good to be true, chances are numerous trade-offs have been made in terms of the quality of workmanship, the materials used and how safe and secure the final product actually is. Also, think about it: if short-cuts were taken during the design, testing, engineering processes, then how ready is the canopy for the real world?

Australian companies make some of the world’s best ute canopies – and a great variety of them – because the Aussie off-roading public demands much of our canopies.

In today’s aftermarket there’s a ute canopy to suit every lifestyle, vehicle and budget. There are variations – of different sizes and configurations – to suit any kind of ute and tub or tray, and some ute canopies have interior configurations designed to incorporate tool boxes, or are purpose-built for camping, with roll-out drawers and more.

The shape – a model-specific moulding – and colour of a ute canopy can be selected so it ‘fits’ with your dual-cab ute.

The basic structure of ute canopies may not change a lot between examples – each one has a roof, walls, and likely a flip/lift door at the rear, a fixed-shut window at the front, and sliding or flip/lift windows on the sides – but each canopy’s capacity to be flexible, in terms of accessibility and storage, may vary widely.

Options for features fitted to something like a dual cab camping canopy include extra tie-down points, central locking, climate control, in-built lighting, soft-close windows, built-in storage systems (such as slide-out drawer systems) and even a slide-out kitchen.

Some canopies are bolted onto a tray – like a dual-cab cab chassis tray – and can be removed without too much fuss.

How much does a ute camping canopy cost?

Buy the best canopy you can afford for your ute. (image credit: Ironman 4x4) Buy the best canopy you can afford for your ute. (image credit: Ironman 4x4)

A ute canopy may range from a couple of hundred dollars for a DIY canvas-and-steel-frame job, to more than $5000 (fitted) for off-the-shelf canopies or even custom, build-your-own versions.

Prices of fibreglass or ABS plastic ute canopies start from around the mid-$2000s mark (including fitment). If you’re in the market for a fibreglass canopy, then expect to pay from about $2500 (fitted) for a classic-style canopy.

Warranties for a ute canopy can range from one year, three years or a lifetime, depending on the materials used and the brand/manufacturer involved.

Who are the leading brands & manufacturers? Best places to buy?

Buy from a reputable company like ARB or Ironman 4x4. (image credit: ARB) Buy from a reputable company like ARB or Ironman 4x4. (image credit: ARB)

Australia’s ute canopy manufacturers and stockists are well-regarded around the world. Top-notch aftermarket brands and manufacturers include Ironman 4x4, ARB, NorWeld, Carryboy Australia, Flexiglass, Opposite Lock, and TJM.

Contact any of these mobs for a camping-suited canopy:

Visit the ARB wesbite to find the nearest ARB store

Visit the Ironman 4x4 website to find the nearest Ironman 4x4 store

Visit the Norweld website to find the nearest stockiest of Norweld’s ute canopies

Visit the Flexiglass website to find the nearest Flexiglass store

Visit the Carryboy website to locate your nearest Carryboy stockist

Visit Wolf 4x4 website to find the nearest Wolf 4x4 store

Visit the Opposite Lock website to find the nearest Opposite Lock store

Visit the TJM website to find the nearest TJM store

What's your favourite ute camping canopy? Tell us in the comments section below.

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